1999, Medieval Romance (Early 1200s Scotland)
Pocket, $7.99, 576 pages, Amazon ASIN 0671003364 Part of a series
Before you all tar and feather me, please hear me out. I know this is a Julie Garwood Scots romance (her best sub-genre, in my mind) and we have all been waiting for this book for a long time (what was that For the Roses series about, anyway?). She can do no wrong in our eyes when she is writing about those Scots (mine included, really). This book was wonderful. But, it just had a few flaws that failed to earn it Desert Isle Keeper status.
Gillian has something that Baron Alford wants. If it weren't for this fact, she would have been dead long ago (like her parents). After leaving her to grow up in the care of an Uncle, Baron Alford has finally called her to him so that he can force her to either bring to him her missing sister, or a jeweled box once stolen from King John. Gillian, knowing how evil he is, has other ideas. With a young boy who has been kidnapped by Alford in an attempt to control the leadership of a powerful Highland clan, Gillian manages to escape and seek the help of the boy's protector - a Highlander by the name of Brodick Buchanan, Laird of the Buchanans. Those of you that have read The Secret will recognize Brodick - my favorite secondary character from any of Garwood's books (and will enjoy as well having the chance to catch up with Iain and Judith). From their first meeting, Brodick and Gillian are drawn to each other, and Brodick can do nothing but aid this brave and beautiful woman who has put herself in his care.
Gillian and Brodick are my two favorite characters from Julie Garwood's books. Gillian is strong and brave, is not intimidated by Brodick's reputation, authority, or disposition, and is determined to be independent. Brodick is different from all other Scots heroes in that he doesn't underestimate Gillian because she is a woman, and in fact treats her with respect from the very first. He is calm and confident, and has a quietness to him. Yes, Gillian is a bit flighty when Brodick is around, and Brodick has an arrogant streak, but it fits well with their characters and the story. The quick and witty dialogue is there (would we expect anything less?), and it is stuffed full of the delightful passages that Garwood is known for:
A few minutes later, she was once again riding her own horse. Deciding to take the lead, she nudged the mare into a trot, and as she passed Brodick and Ramsey, she called out, "You used trickery."
"Yes, I did," he admitted. "Are you angry with me?"
She laughed again. "I don't get angry. I get even."
Unbeknownst to her, she had just recited the Buchanan creed.
I love those passages!
Flaws? They are few, but important. The secondary romance is more of a distraction than anything - both Ramsey and Bridgid are not known enough to the reader (although Ramsey is a re-occurring character from The Secret) to make it interesting. The section of the book that takes place at Ramsey's compound drags and is too long. Gillian and Bridgid's relationship is a silly one, which is a disappointment, as strong female friendships are not common occurances in romances and therefore are a joy to read.
As I said the flaws are few. Ransom provides suspense, passion, and humor all revolving around a strong couple and their developing relationship. The subplot involving the kidnapped boy is a perfect addition. This was a book that I read in one sitting, and I have no regrets about the lack of sleep. I hope that Ms. Garwood never gets tired of writing in this sub-genre - no one does it better.
-- Rebecca Ekmark
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